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Questions & Answers: HIV Transmission


I am a nursing student and I am currently trying to find out information about perinatal nurses and their exposure to HIV in labor and delivery. Current data has shown that nurses use universal precautions only about half of the time. Do you have any information pertaining to this topic? Thank you.


As far as we know, there has been nothing written about exposure to HIV when nurses do not completely follow universal precaution procedures. During the past 12 months, New England Journal of Medicine published a paper about post-exposure prophylaxis with zidovudine in reducing the risk of HIV infection. This paper refers to known identified exposures.


What are the ways a newborn can contract HIV from it's mother?

-- A student in Bakersfield, CA


Thank you for your question. Here is some information about how HIV is transmitted to people and infants.

HIV is found in blood, semen (the fluid containing sperm), vaginal fluid, and breast milk. A person can get HIV in one or more of these ways:

In a study called ACTG 076, it was found that certain pregnant women who were infected with HIV and took AZT (also called Retrovir®, zidovudine) were less likely to pass the virus to their babies. More than 500 pregnant women participated in the study. Half of the mothers and babies did not take AZT. The other half of the women took AZT, and their babies were given AZT for 6 weeks after they were born. In the group who took AZT, only 8% of the infants were infected with HIV. In the group that did not get AZT, 25% of babies were infected with HIV.

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